Waves of Education: Tribal-State Court Cooperation and the Indian Child Welfare Act
25 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2012 Last revised: 26 Sep 2012
Date Written: April 6, 2012
This article focuses on the relationship and agreements between tribal and state judicial systems in Michigan. In tracing that work, the article demonstrates the cyclical nature of tribal-state court relations, and the way the welfare of Indian children binds together tribal and state judicial systems, regardless of either side’s participation. Federal intervention in this area under the auspices of the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) virtually forces tribes and states to work together. How the personnel in the tribal and state systems interact has a huge impact on the children of the tribes in Michigan.
Twice in the past twenty years representatives of the tribal and state judiciaries in Michigan have come together to negotiate agreements, create rules, and draft legislation. Once the work is done, however, how do the courts handle these kind of agreements? Part of the problem with state ICWA laws elsewhere is the courts’ unwillingness to affirm a state law that differs from ICWA. Tribes and states willing to do the work to create a state ICWA law that is tailored to state laws, while providing more than the minimum standards created by the federal ICWA, have at times been greeted with hostility in the courts. Regardless, the relationships that develop through the process of drafting these laws and agreements benefit both tribal and state systems.
Keywords: Indian Child Welfare Act, Michigan, Tribal Courts, State Courts, Tribal/State Court Forum
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